ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
The city of Marion may have a small claim to fame riding on the existence of some old hotel registers-if anybody knew where to find them.
Albert Steele, who managed the Elgin as apartments for several years, heard tantalizing tales that the old Elgin Hotel guest register might have included signatures from such Old West celebrities as Bat Masterson and Buffalo Bill Cody.
But Steele never found anybody who knew where the registers were.
Dick Varenhorst, returning as a veteran of the Vietnam War in the late 1960s, said he saw a large registration book at the time with the names “William Masterson” and a “Hickock” in it, and wondered if the names could be verified as belonging to those of the famous fellows.
But Varenhorst doesn’t know what happened to the book. He thought the historical society probably had it.
Phillis Melton said the registers never surfaced during the years she oversaw the Marion Historical Society, although the museum possesses information that Kansas Gov. Crawford once stayed at the Elgin before going west to fight Native Americans.
Jean Case, who has worked for the society, and Cynthia Blount, the current administrator, don’t know anything about the registers either.
Those talked to remembered a large piece of stone in danger of falling from the Elgin. Inscribed on the stone was a date-they think 1886. It was taken to a building by the water plant, probably in the 1960s.
When the building burned, it is believed the stone was buried with other rubble in the area by a bulldozer.
An old newspaper article from the 1890s states that Frank James, brother of the notorious Jesse, was in town as a celebrity guest to start horse races. The famous trotting horse from Peabody, Joe Young, ran in those races.
But there’s no mention of where James stayed, although everybody agreed the Elgin was the best place to stay at the time.
Lorraine Hadsell said her family was once involved in the Elgin’s affairs when they were major shareholders of the Farmers & Drovers Bank in Marion. But she remembers no guest registers.
She and her husband moved to Marion in 1948, and she said she remembers they had to wait until their second night to stay at the Elgin because it was filled with witnesses, lawyers and others in town for a trial. She said a family named Sparks owned the hotel then.
Steele said later the owners were Van and Florence Anderson.
What the Sparks or the Andersons or anybody else did with the registers remains a mystery. Some say the books might have been carried away by these people as mementos, or they are in forgotten storage, destroyed, or possibly sold in an auction at the Elgin in the 1960s.
If you know, please call the Free Press so we may write the rest of this interesting chapter from Marion’s past.